Episode 049 – Return of the Gryphon

In which a lion-headed dragon gets thrown into space.

Skeletor has formed an unusually subtle plan this week: he despatches Beast-Man and Trapjaw to steal the Jewel of Protection from the Shrine of the Gryphon, and instructs them to hide it in the Palace grounds, knowing that the Gryphon will destroy everything in its path to get the jewel back. Astonishingly, these two clowns achieve their part in the plan without a hitch.

The episode now takes a turn for the irritating with the introduction of Thad, a royal page boy with a massive chip on his shoulder about no one knowing who he is. He indulges in a long and infuriating monologue that made me suspect everyone knows precisely who Thad is, and they simply don’t like him because he’s a whining brat. Thad then finds the Jewel of Protection, and concludes moronically that it will make him into someone important.

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Thad: “Maybe if I stand here pouting, someone will like me.”

In the Palace laboratory, Man-at-Arms proudly unveils his latest invention: a freeze ray. Really, Man-at-Arms? Are we supposed to be impressed? You’ve had freeze rays since at least Episode 13, and this is Episode 49. And to top it off, this latest freeze ray doesn’t even work. This time-wasting interlude comes to a halt when a call comes in from Chandor village, reporting they are under attack from the Gryphon.

He-Man leaps into the Attack Trak and heads for Chandor, where he finds that the Gryphon is a pink dragon with a lion’s head, and is consequently pretty amusing. Knowing he has many ludicrous ways to defeat a monster, this time He-Man opts to divert a river at it, and then returns to the Palace, where he solemnly reports he doesn’t think they’ve seen the last of the Gryphon. Well, why didn’t you stay in Chandor and finish the job then, you oaf?

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Gryphon: “Don’t laugh at my ridiculous design! I can breathe fire!”

Discussing the situation, He-Man concludes that the Gryphon must have attacked because the Jewel of Protection was stolen; he, Man-at-Arms and Teela all realise that the jewel now in the possession of Thad must be the missing bauble. With the Gryphon now headed for the Palace, He-Man and Man-at-Arms prepare the defence, while Teela is sent off to find Thad.

Thad has of course overheard all the discussions and decides that he doesn’t want to give up the jewel, because it will make him a nobody again. In his tiny mind, running away with the jewel is a preferable option. Once Teela finds him, Thad once again whimpers about no one liking him if he doesn’t have the jewel. Frankly, no one likes him with or without the jewel. He’s a waste of space and he should be fired from his page boy job. Teela, however, shows infinitely more patience than I would have and eventually persuades Thad to give up the jewel.

Man-at-Arms tries to use his allegedly new freeze ray, but it still doesn’t work, so He-Man has a really good fight with the Gryphon, in the course of which he hurls it into outer space. Luckily, the Gryphon is able to breathe in a vacuum so comes roaring back through the atmosphere, making this whole sequence completely gratuitous. It’s as if someone in charge said, “Well, yes, it’s a good fight, but it’s not insane enough. Could you put something mental in it?”

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Gryphon: “I am having a very bad day.”

Thad and Teela return with the jewel, but by this stage the Gryphon has started a forest fire, which He-Man puts out by throwing a mountain into a lake. This proves to be a mistake, since Thad has idiotically dropped the jewel, which is now lost somewhere in the flood that He-Man has caused. To make matters worse, the jewel turns out to be the Gryphon’s egg, which hatches, giving life to a baby Gryphon which is afraid of water. To everyone’s surprise, Thad risks his life to save the baby, and the Gryphon makes a weirdly smug face at the camera before flying away. Then everyone congratulates Thad for being so heroic. Yay.

 

In today’s adventure…

Man-at-Arms states that today, when Thad realised he must face his own responsibilities, it was the moment that Thad turned from a boy into a man. I understand the message, but it really is a strange way of putting it.

 

Character checklist

A pretty standard line-up greets us today, consisting of Prince Adam, He-Man, Man-at-Arms, Orko, Teela, Thad, Trapjaw, Beast-Man, and a parade of nameless villagers.

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Nameless Villager With Beard: “It is pretty plain to see that my village is inhabited primarily either by clones or by the product of many centuries of intense inbreeding.”

 

Excuse given for Prince Adam’s disappearance

Adam becomes He-Man in the laboratory, with only Orko and Man-at-Arms present. There is a Palace Guard on the other side of a Skype link, but Adam obviously considers that since this isn’t a character with a name, he won’t be telling about the transformation.

 

Insults

It starts off fairly promisingly, with Trapjaw calling Beast-Man a “fool” and a “hairy fool” in rapid succession, but after that no one says anything unkind, even though Thad deserves every insult ever devised.

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Trapjaw: “I’m a master at hide-and-seek.”

 

Does it have the Power?

I can’t say that it’s exactly one of my favourites. I don’t like it whenever they trot out an irritating child who needs to learn a lesson of some sort, and Thad is smarmier than most. It’s incredibly difficult to sympathise with him even before he finds the jewel, and once he does get the jewel and opts not to give it back, he becomes even less relatable. Not even his “becoming a man” at the end of the episode makes up for it.

Otherwise, there’s nothing too annoying, but nothing all that interesting either. I had high hopes at the start when Beast-Man and Trapjaw appeared, but they vanished from the story after the first scene. I also have to wonder, why didn’t Skeletor take advantage of the Gryphon-related chaos to attack Grayskull? Having set this whole thing in motion, he completely failed to capitalise on his initial success.

So in summary, I’d call this one slightly below average, and you’d be more than welcome to skip it.

Episode 048 – Return of Evil

In which we are treated to a confusing but entertaining mess.

Before we begin, I’d like to reassure readers that the Evil in question here is not the less than compelling manifestation of Evil that we saw in Wizard of Stone Mountain. On the other hand, it’s still not a very interesting Evil: it’s Aramesh, from Orko’s dimension. One thing we should bear in mind about Aramesh is that he’s an electroid, which is a robot made from pure energy. I’m not a scientist, so I don’t want to comment if such a thing is possible. Answers on a postcard, please.

Aramesh appears in the Palace, looking like a low-budget knock-off of the Yellow Power Ranger, and you’ll be pleased to hear I couldn’t understand a word he says. The gist would appear to be that he wants to capture Orko, and he successfully does so.

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Aramesh: “Hello! I am Aramesh and I want to kidnap Orko. I don’t know why.”

Over at Snake Mountain, Skeletor, Beast-Man and Evil-Lyn have watched this little interlude on Skeletor’s magic globe (you know, the one that lets him see everything going on in Eternia, except little things like watching Adam turn into He-Man), and they determine that if Aramesh is interested in capturing Orko, there must be something interesting about him.

He-Man puts in his not unexpected appearance and gallops off on Battle-Cat in pursuit of Aramesh and Orko. Man-at-Arms and Teela promise to follow in the Wind Raider. Ignoring the fact that not a single one of these people know which direction Aramesh has gone in, they all manage to catch up with their quarry just in time for Skeletor to teleport him out from under their noses.

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Skeletor: “Don’t interrupt me while I’m watching Neighbours, Beast-Man.”

Aramesh and Orko appear at Snake Mountain inside a giant jam jar which Skeletor has prepared for their delectation. Aramesh starts making whimpering noises that are unbecoming for a robot, until Skeletor offers Aramesh the opportunity to work together. Aramesh agrees to help Skeletor conquer Eternia, in return for some secret which I think has something to do with Orko. There’s just time for a quick burst of mental laughter from Skeletor before the commercial break.

Back at the Palace, He-Man, Man-at-Arms and Teela are discussing the situation when Skeletor and Beast-Man teleport in, bringing Orko with them. Skeletor demands “the secret thing from the other dimension” in return for Orko, which is nicely non-specific. Man-at-Arms negotiates an hour to think this over, presumably so they can work out what the hell Skeletor is gibbering on about. Orko reveals that the “secret thing” is hidden at Castle Grayskull, so he and He-Man head there.

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Skeletor: “What the hell is wrong with your face, Beast-Man?”

Faced with this conundrum, the Sorceress reveals that the “secret thing” is a Dimension Sphere, and there follows a quite astounding recital of gibberish, the upshot of which is that the Dimension Sphere can be used to return Aramesh to Orko’s dimension, but there will be only one chance to do so. Do you think they’ll manage it?

Back at the Palace, Man-at-Arms “accidentally” lets slip that the secret thing is at the Tar Swamp. Skeletor is delighted with this information, even pausing briefly to mug at the camera, a pause which proves a mistake, as Aramesh takes the opportunity to hurtle off to the Tar Swamp. Skeletor enters into hot pursuit, while Man-at-Arms calls He-Man to reassure him that the plan is working.

Aramesh enters the Tar Swamp with an inarticulate noise that might have been supposed to have been a roar, if only the voice actor had put the slightest bit of effort into it. Skeletor arrives too, at which point there begins a whole lot of people going through dimensional portals, the end result of which is that Orko is on Eternia, while Aramesh and Skeletor remain trapped on the other side.

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Aramesh: “I don’t even know what’s happening anymore.”

I’m sure Skeletor will find a way to get back from the other side of the portal, but the episode didn’t bother to dwell on this, instead choosing to close with a scene where Orko is dubbed Sir Orko for his bravery during this episode. He then gets frightened at a loud noise, at which everyone in the room collapses in fits of helpless laughter – everyone, that is, except for one Palace Guard standing off to the far left, who is clearly thinking, “What a bunch of morons.”

 

In today’s adventure…

Teela begins by saying, “Today, Orko was being chased by an evil robot.” I thought she was going to go on to give advice about what we should do if we find ourselves in a similar situation, but no – nothing so useful. Instead, we learn that we shouldn’t be ashamed of being frightened, and that fear is helpful in keeping us out of trouble. That’s great, but I did need to know about evil robots.

 

Character checklist

We lucky viewers are treated to appearances from Prince Adam, Cringer, He-Man, Battle-Cat, Teela, Man-at-Arms, Orko, the Sorceress, Skeletor, Beast-Man, Evil-Lyn, and that crazy Aramesh guy.

 

Excuse given for Prince Adam’s disappearance

Adam takes the opportunity to turn into He-Man when Man-at-Arms and Teela have been knocked out cold, and doesn’t see the need to explain when they wake up.

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Prince Adam: “Maybe I used too much Rohypnol.”

Insults

My goodness, things got nasty this week! It must be the combination of Skeletor, Beast-Man and a new adversary with an unusual feature that did it. As usual, Skeletor gets some of the best burns, calling Beast-Man the traditional “Fuzzbrain” and the more imaginative “overgrown fur coat”, and also dishes out “little bag of wind” to Orko and “overgrown alley cat” to Battle-Cat, the latter of which leads Battle-Cat to make a noise like Muttley from the Wacky Races.

All the characters act a bit like teenage girls, bitching behind each other’s backs at various points. When his target isn’t present, Skeletor calls Orko a “floating runt” and a “little mischief maker”, and refers to Aramesh as a “walking light bulb”, while Aramesh says Skeletor is a “fool”. He-Man also gets in on the act, calling Aramesh an “overgrown short-circuit” when he’s not there to defend himself.

When it’s time to do some face-to-face insulting, the goodies fall down a little in their name-calling for Aramesh. Adam calls him a “bright boy”, which tonally was definitely not complimentary, but at face value it certainly is. He-Man’s effort of “bright face” is not a whole lot better.  Finally, He-Man comments, “You’re not known for doing favours, Skeletor”, which I think counts as an insult, albeit a fairly passive-aggressive one.

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Skeletor: “You, He-Man, are a complete twat.”

 

Does it have the Power?

It’s difficult to know what to say about this episode. While I was watching it, I got the distinct impression that it’s completely off its head, but when I came to summarise it, it didn’t seem any more mental than other recent offerings. Aramesh was a less than compelling baddy, but the presence of Skeletor more than made up for that.  It seemed utterly nuts when everyone showed up at the Palace demanding the “secret thing”, and the end fight sequence in the Tar Swamp was a little bit crazy as well.

But on the other hand, the episode’s sheer insanity has to stand as a wholehearted recommendation. It’s mad – not to the point of being irritating, just mad enough to be a very enjoyable ride. Definitely worth a watch.

Episode 047 – Keeper of the Ancient Ruins

In which He-Man throws a whirlwind into a pit.

It’s that time again, boys and girls, for our weekly catch-up with Eternia’s best and brightest. This week, we find Man-at-Arms has come on an archaeology trip with a very small man called Professor Smullen, to a ruined city in the desert. Professor Smullen very quickly locates the Book of Ancient Eternia, which has been lost for centuries, but Man-at-Arms is only interested in having his dinner. The pair then come under attack by Zactons – helpfully expositioned by Smullen as thousand year old robots.

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Man-at-Arms: “Get on with it, Smullen, it’s sausages for tea today.”

The Zactons, however, have made the mistake of attacking while there was an open radio link to the Palace, which means that Adam, Teela and Cringer hop in the Wind Raider forthwith to come to the rescue. Unfortunately, a serious thunderstorm forces them to crash land in a cave near to the ancient city, a crash landing in which Teela is conveniently knocked out long enough for Adam to turn into He-Man.

Teela has sustained a head injury, and He-Man rather hilariously shouts, “Help me, Sorceress, I need wisdom – wisdom that matches my strength,” essentially admitting that he’s just a muscle-bound moron. In response to He-Man’s plea, the Sorceress sends the scariest-looking rooster I’ve ever seen to cure Teela with its freaky glowing eyes. While the demented rooster looks after Teela, He-Man and Battle-Cat head out to find Man-at-Arms and Smullen.

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He-Man: “Well, this is new.”

En route, they get caught in a whirlwind. He-Man’s solution to this is to carve a circular hole in the ground, into which the whirlwind falls. Honestly. I know that this programme is utterly implausible at the best of times and that I really shouldn’t be surprised anymore, but this is genuinely insane. What with this and the rooster, this feels like the sort of stupid He-Man episode you’d make up in your dreams.

In the meantime, Man-at-Arms has been trying to appease the Zactons by showing them his food synthesiser, which is a little bit weird, if you ask me. Smullen has a better idea by trying to persuade the Zactons that they were not intending to steal the treasures of the ancient city. Luckily, one of the Zactons falls over, and Man-at-Arms offers to fix it, thus proving his honourable nature. This is nearly ruined when He-Man blunders in waving his sword around, but he is quickly talked out of doing any damage.

At this point Trapjaw – who has rather aimlessly been floating around the periphery of the episode – makes his grand entrance, capturing Teela and rather ambitiously claiming he wants to take everyone prisoner as a present for Skeletor. As I’m sure you can guess, this doesn’t work out very well for Trapjaw, and he winds up shot by the Zactons’ freeze ray, then once again carted off to the prison mines.

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He-Man: “Why do you even bother, Trapjaw?”

Man-at-Arms and Smullen decide to turn the ancient city into a museum for all Eternians to see the treasures, a prospect that makes the Zactons weep with joy, despite them being robots. As the episode ends, Teela attempts to summarise the events for Adam. She is not one of the world’s best storytellers, managing simply, “There were all these treasures, and then Trapjaw showed up!” I wrote better stories than that when I was four.

 

In today’s adventure …

He-Man shows up with the pearl of wisdom that museums are storehouses of knowledge, and since knowledge is power, if you go to a museum, you can get the power. As he earnestly utters this tripe, the camera slowly and disconcertingly zooms in on his face. Once the camera is sufficiently close, He-Man fixes us with a stare that implies he’s deeply disappointed in us.

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He-Man: “I’m not angry, I’m just disappointed.”

 

Character checklist

Our main cast today consists of Prince Adam, Cringer, He-Man, Battle-Cat, Teela, Man-at-Arms, Professor Smullen and Trapjaw. There’s cameo appearances from Orko and the Sorceress, and lest you forget, there is also a giant inexplicable rooster.

 

Excuse given for Prince Adam’s disappearance

Once the adventure is over, Teela demands to know where Adam and Cringer went. Cringer claims that they have been fixing the Wind Raider, which is the most ludicrous excuse ever, given that Teela was with the Wind Raider for the entire time she was being cured by the flaming-eyed rooster, and Adam and Cringer were clearly not there then. Teela nonetheless accepts this excuse, idiot that she is.

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Adam: “I reckon we can get away without even trying for a sensible excuse this week, Cringer. Teela probably thinks she’s gone insane anyway, thanks to that ridiculous rooster.”

 

Insults

Despite a promising shot of Snake Mountain, leading me to imagine that Skeletor would feature, we get only Trapjaw, for whom insults are not a strong suit. Though admittedly, nothing is a strong suit for Trapjaw.

 

Egg on your face?

Right, okay. This is just downright odd. It isn’t an egg – or any other foodstuff – on anyone’s face, but it is a magic trick by Orko and it does apparently go wrong. Orko conjures up a basket of fruit and gives an apple to Cringer. Cringer greedily gobbles it up and then complains, “Orko – that apple was green!” as if this is a bad thing. Surely – SURELY – the writers of He-Man knew that apples could be both green and red? Cringer continues to complain about the apple throughout the rest of the episode, as if the writers wanted to continually remind us that they’re mental.

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Orko: “Yes, Cringer, apples can be green, you complete spoon.”

 

Does it have the Power?

I think I’ll come down on the side of no. The story is fine, if not enormously compelling, but there’s just so many really strange bits in this episode that I’m almost convinced it was a piss-take first-draft that accidentally managed to get made into an actual episode. Cringer and the apple, Trapjaw’s fairly random appearance, the giant rooster with glowing eyes, Man-at-Arms’ minor obsession with his food synthesiser, and most of all, the bit where the whirlwind falls down a hole – all these things are crazy on their own, and here they’re mixed together into a great big saucepan of mental. The only reason to watch it is so you can exclaim, “What the hell did I just see?”

Episode 046 – Eternal Darkness

In which I reveal perhaps more about my psyche than I should.

As this week’s instalment opens, King Randor (who, incidentally, sleeps in a separate bed from Queen Marlena) is having a nightmare, in which a gentleman called Darkdream claims to be back. Man-at-Arms, Teela, Prince Adam and Cringer all have similar nightmares, leading Adam to conclude that Darkdream must have escaped the chamber where he was sealed by Man-at-Arms at some indiscriminate point in the past.

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King Randor: “Oh no, the Nazgul! Or, at least, a cheap Nazgul knock-off.”

This does not prove entirely true. Darkdream is indeed active again, but for now he cannot leave the chamber. He has plans to amend this, and since he is unable to survive in light, he has called on the aid of Evil-Lyn and some sort of gnome called Tabor to forever darken the Eternian sun. Tabor’s powers extend to messing with the orbit of Eternia’s moon, and his plan is to cause a neverending eclipse, allowing Darkdream to go where he wishes.

Back at the Palace, Adam, Teela and Man-at-Arms are sitting about debating how Darkdream’s chamber could have been opened. It does not appear to have occurred to any of them to go and have a look, and it takes Orko – of all people – to suggest that some recent explosions in the Crimson Valley might have something to do with it. Only at that point do Adam and Teela decide to check on the seal.

There’s then an indication that the episode was running a little short, since we’re treated to a good 90 seconds of footage of Adam and Teela flying along, without saying anything. Finally, Teela falls asleep at the wheel, prompting Adam to casually comment, “Darkdream has taken over Teela’s mind again,” making it sound like this sort of thing happens every day and is only a minor inconvenience.

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Prince Adam: “I very much hope the Hampshire County Police don’t see this.”

Luckily, Adam becomes He-Man for a few seconds, prevents a crash landing, then becomes Adam again before waking Teela up. After a quick investigation, they determine that the seal is cracked but not fully open. They then inexplicably return to the Palace and waste time talking about how they have to close the seal quickly. Idiots.

This delay gives Tabor time to carry out his spell, and he moves the moon in front of the sun. For some crazed reason, this makes the gravity in the Palace go haywire – everyone floats up to the ceiling, then become pinned to the floor. Man-at-Arms tries to claim this is because of the eclipse (well, actually, first he tries to blame Orko, which did make me chuckle), but we all know this sort of thing doesn’t happen in eclipses. The real explanation is that the writers thought it would be funny.

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Teela: “There is literally no reason for this to be happening.”

Just because things aren’t desperate or insane enough, Man-at-Arms now reveals that the moon is going to crash into Eternia, so they’d better get along to Castle Grayskull with all due speed. On arrival, they discover that Darkdream, Tabor and Evil-Lyn are already there, having captured the Sorceress in falcon form, as well as Stratos, who is putting in a somewhat random appearance.

Man-at-Arms informs Darkdream of the impending collision between Eternia and the moon, and rather surprisingly, Darkdream concedes that this would be a bad thing. He demands that Tabor reverse the spell, but Tabor cannot do so. Man-at-Arms’ alternative plan, therefore, is for He-Man to detonate a vast quantity of explosives in Eternia’s upper atmosphere. Just to give you an idea of precisely what a “vast quantity of explosives” consists of, He-Man describes it as “enough to blow this whole planet to bits”. I’m sure I can’t be alone in thinking this is a bad idea.

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The Sorceress: “Stratos, thanks for showing up, but shouldn’t you, you know, try to achieve something?”

But as it happens, after the detonation, the moon returns to its normal orbit, as if nothing had happened. This means that the sun reappears, which in turn means that Darkdream and Tabor fade away. Where they go to is unexplained, because the writers instead chose to finish the episode with a hilarious Orko sequence.

 

In today’s adventure…

Teela takes the time to explain that bad dreams aren’t real, so it’s fine to talk them over with your parents or friends. This is good, because I recently had a dream where Helo from Battlestar Galactica was in the middle of a messy break up with Zooey Deschanel, and it was my job to bring them endless supplies of coffee, which they didn’t like. It was quite a scary dream, but now I’ve talked it over with you guys, I feel so much better.

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Zooey: “Get out, Helo. Just get out.”

 

Character checklist

Lots of people parade around the screen for our amusement today, including Prince Adam, Cringer, He-Man, Battle-Cat, Teela, Man-at-Arms, Orko, the Sorceress, Stratos, King Randor, Queen Marlena, Darkdream, Evil-Lyn and Tabor.

 

Excuse given for Prince Adam’s disappearance

Adam turns into He-Man twice this week, but doesn’t see fit to explain himself either time.

 

Insults

Darkdream leads the field this week, reasonably enough calling Tabor a “fool” when he reveals he cannot undo his spell, and also calling Evil-Lyn a “cowardly witch” when she does a runner.

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Darkdream: “I might as well repeat the Nazgul joke, since I don’t have any additional witty comments.”

 

Egg on your face?

This category is a bit resurgent of late: the episode ends with Orko conjuring up a rain cloud right over Man-at-Arms’ head. Did I laugh? Hell, yeah.

 

Does it have the Power?

This one’s a bit unfortunate, really, because it did have potential to be really quite good. The idea of Darkdream having the power to cause nightmares is quite creepy, and in the early stages he seemed pretty threatening. The episode then completely undermined itself with its stupid excursion into gravity problems, and then overegged the pudding by veering off into an essentially unrelated story about the moon crashing into the planet. The solution to this conundrum – which boiled down to setting off an enormous bomb – seemed particularly unimaginative.

Other questions abounded: why was Evil-Lyn allied to Darkdream, and why was she in the episode at all, given she contributed nothing? Why did Adam and Teela go to check out Darkdream’s prison without any means of sealing him back in? How did Evil-Lyn get into Darkdream’s prison in the first place if it was still sealed? And finally, what on earth was Stratos doing in this episode? He got about two lines and didn’t do anything other than get tied up. He’s an incompetent clown.

So no, it doesn’t really have the Power. But in its early stages, it looked like it might, which just makes it more frustrating.